Some are prescription and some are over the counter.
Tretinoin and isotretinoin are much stronger and are prescription only. It's a true retinoic acid which means your skin is able to use immediately.
The other types of retinoids like retinol and retinyl palmitate are the most common forms found in over the counter products. Retinyl palmitate is the weakest. Both retinol and retinyl palmitate have to go through several conversion steps before your skin can gain anti-aging benefits.
For example, retinyl palmitate must convert to retinol, then to retinaldehyde, and then finally to retinoic acid.
Each step or conversion weakens the effect....so you will probably a stronger concentration of retinyl palmitate to get the same results you would with a more direct form of retinoic acid - like retinol.
Paula's Choice contains retinol which only requires only 2 steps so you shouldn't need as high of a concentration as you would with a product that contains retinyl palmitate.
Which form is best for you depends on your skin type, condition, how much your skin can handle i.e. how sensitive it is.
For example a 1% concentration of retinol might bring about fantastic results for someone with a small amount of skin damage. Where another person with severe damage or aged skin might need a higher concentration to see any difference.
This is something each person needs to try for themselves and measure their results by trying different types of retinol skin care products.
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